CASE CLOSED … what really happened in the 2001 anthrax attacks?

* FBI’s Lab Director Hassell disputes Epstein’s WSJ opinion piece … but does not support his allegations … what exactly are the “inaccuracies” and “omitted facts” he alleges but does not provide?

Posted by DXer on February 4, 2010

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FBI disputes Epstein’s WSJ opinion piece

… but does not support its allegations


FBI Press Release dated February 3, 2010

re: Letter to the Editor on FBI’s Scientific Work in Anthrax Case

Dr. David Christian (Chris) Hassell ... FBI Laboratory Director

A version of this letter was published in The Wall Street Journal on February 1, 2010.

Letters to the Editor
The Wall Street Journal
1211 Avenue of the Americas,
New York, NY 10036

Dear Editor:

Monday’s opinion piece, “The Anthrax Attacks Remain Unsolved,” was filled with inaccuracies and omitted several relevant facts that are necessary for a balanced discussion of the science applied in the anthrax investigation.

From the outset, the FBI’s scientific work in the anthrax case has had a foundation in validation and verification of its approach and conclusions. This process began within weeks of the initial events of 2001 and has included:

  • consultation with numerous subject matter experts in technical panels;
  • collaboration with partner laboratories in government, academia and the private sector throughout the course of the investigation;
  • ongoing efforts to publish our work and that of our partner labs in peer-reviewed technical journals; and
  • analytical data and reports provided to the National Academy of Sciences so they can evaluate the scientific analysis applied to the evidence in the anthrax investigation.

The FBI is confident in the scientific findings that were reached in this investigation. We utilized established biological and chemical analysis techniques and applied them in an innovative manner to reach these findings.

D. Christian Hassell, Ph.D
FBI Laboratory

Read the FBI press release at …


  • Typically, the FBI is providing no more support to its allegation that Epstein is wrong than they have to their assertion that Dr. Ivins is the sole perpetrator.
  • What, for instance, are the “inaccuracies” and “omitted facts” it alleges but does not provide?
  • I personally have NO CONFIDENCE in the FBI’s unsupported allegations.


57 Responses to “* FBI’s Lab Director Hassell disputes Epstein’s WSJ opinion piece … but does not support his allegations … what exactly are the “inaccuracies” and “omitted facts” he alleges but does not provide?”

  1. Old Atlantic said

    When I follow the link to the FBI site I get:

    Please double check the web address or use the search function on this page to find what you are looking for.

    If you are certain you have the correct web address but are encountering an error, please contact the Site Administration.

    Thank you.
    You might have been looking for…

    Mass-Marketing Fraud: A Threat Assessment
    Mortgage Fraud Report 2009


    I was looking for the Amerithrax Fraud Report 20??.

  2. Anonymous Scientist said

    Ivins’ attorney: Anthrax case to be closed today
    Originally published February 19, 2010 – Updated 11:28 AM, February 19, 2010

    By Adam Behsudi
    News-Post Staff

    The FBI is expected to issue a final report today on its six-year investigation of the 2001 anthrax letter attacks, according to the attorney representing former Frederick resident Bruce Ivins, a Fort Detrick scientist accused of planning and carrying out the attacks that killed five people and sickened 17.
    “The U.S. Attorney called me and said they would close the case today,” said Rockville attorney Paul Kemp.

    The report will close an investigation in which Ivins, a senior researcher at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, was eventually identified as the only person suspected of mailing the deadly letters to the offices of U.S. senators and media companies.

    Kemp said he was contacted Thursday by the office of U.S. Attorney for the Disrict of Columbia.

    Ivins died from an apparent suicide in July 2008, one week before the FBI announced their findings. He had swallowed enough Tylenol to poison himself before any charges were filed.

    The mailings wreaked havoc on the U.S. Postal Service causing fear among a population still reeling in the weeks following the Sept. 11 attacks.

    The investigation was the largest and most involved in FBI history. Kemp said he was unsure of the scope of materials that would be released today.

    “I’m sure the family will want to discuss it,” he said

  3. BugMaster said

    Ed made an excellent point on his website today:

    “But what’s really important is that there’s a “program” in the diatom DNA for turning the utilization of silica on and off.”

    Exactly! The diatom evolved over time to utilize silica, and the “program” (or more accurately the genetic instructions for the enzymes and other factors required for the biochemical process that allows the diatom to utilize silica) is encoded in their DNA.

    So, if in fact there are bacillis species that have evolved to utilize silica, they too would have a “DNA program” as a result of this evolution.

    No one, ever has found the slightest suggestion of such DNA instructions in bacillis, rather, the accumulation of silicon is more likely the result of a non-biological physical process (AS DESCRIBED BY WEBER AT LAWRENCE LIVERMORE!).

    If the actual genes that encode for silicon utilization in bacillis are ever found, then, yes, Ed, that indicates that bacillis have evolved to utilize silicon.

    The problem is two-fold.

    In the case of bacillis, it is hard to imagine that such silicon utilization conferred enough competative advantage so that such a mechanism could evolve. Even if it did, it wouldn’t over time in any species that did not benefit from such a mechanism (such as b. anthracis!).


    The genes aren’t there, Ed!


    It has been a very frustrating week at the lab, and I was really in need of a good laugh.

    Now knowing that I am a conspiracy-theory true believer creationist has made my day!


    • BugMaster said

      “Bacillus bacteria may have evolved from some form of diatoms”

      Diatoms are eukaryotes, bacteria are prokaryotes. This doesn’t rule out the possiblity of a bacteria evolving to utilize silica, but if such evolution occured, it would be a case of parallel evolution, rather that “Bacillus evolving from some form of diatom.”

      I must say, Ed, you are a very courageous individual.

      You have no fear that sometime in the near future, you are going to end up looking like a total fool!

      • BugMaster said

        “It still appears that Bacillus anthracis has some ability to utilize silicon in the building of its spore coat, and that ability must be programmed in its DNA.”

        Ed, you mentioned on your website that you will be consulting with others on this.

        It would surprise me if there are any microbial geneticists that would whole-heartedly embrace your theory.

        But that is just my opinion. See what others have to say on this.

      • BugMaster said


        They can’t close the case this week, Ed!

        Monday is President’s day, and a 4-day week is too short to allow for something so important!

      • BugMaster said

        “In the Daschle powder, 66 percent of the spores contained silicon and 34 percent did not. It wasn’t a matter of gradual buildup where 66 percent were above a certain line and 34 percent were below a certain line.”

        A “certain line”!!?

        That’s real scientific, Ed.

        No junk science here.

    • BugMaster said

      Thank God, Ed, we all have that there “vestigial” DNA.

      Otherwise, we’d have to be bothered with such things as making sure we have all the required essential amino acids and vitamins in our diet!

      • BugMaster said

        Early on in our evolutionary path, we lost the ability to synthesize essential amino acids and vitamins. We don’t need to, because we can obtain what we need from our diet (plants and bacteria do synthesize the amino acids and vitamins they need).

        We lost this ability because there was no evolutionary advantage to expend metabolic energy to synthesize what we could obtain from our diet. So the ability to do so, including the DNA that encoded for the enzymes in these metabolic pathways is gone.

        It does not exist as some kind of backup as “vestigial DNA” to be reactivated whenever we need it.

        • BugMaster said

          The point here Ed is not that I am a creationist, but rather, vestigial DNA is not functional.

        • BugMaster said

          The appendix actually has a function, Ed.

        • BugMaster said

          Form follows function, Ed.

          If two unrelated lifeforms have evolved similar characteristics, it is referred to as parallel EVOLUTION.

          The example I remember is that of the similarities between Australia’s marsupial wolf and the North American wolf.

          They are in no way related, but rather came about as a result of parallel evolution, not “intelligent design”.

          Besides, if there really was a “creator” responsible, who the hell created the “creator”! :.)

    • BugMaster said

      “Every time you make a declaration based upon a belief without offering any kind of proof or reasoning, you confirm that you do not use reasoning to make your decisions, you just have beliefs.”

      No, Ed, actually, not beliefs, but facts.

      Not all facts can be disclosed in a public forum, Ed.

  4. Anonymous Scientist said

    # 1 in the top ten:

    Press Release
    For Immediate Release
    February 5, 2010
    Washington D.C.
    FBI National Press Office
    (202) 324-3691

    FBI’s Top Ten News Stories for the Week Ending February 5, 2010

    FBI Laboratory: Letter to the Editor on FBI’s Scientific Work in Anthrax Case

    Read a letter sent by D. Christian Hassell, Ph.D, director of the FBI Laboratory, to The Wall Street Journal in response to a recent opinion piece about the anthrax investigation. Full Story
    Dallas: State Representative Pleads Guilty to Federal Charges, Agrees to Resign

    Gladys E. “Terri” Hodge, who was to go on trial early next month on charges outlined in a 31-count indictment charging 14 public officials and their associates with offenses related to a bribery and extortion scheme involving affordable housing developments in the Dallas area, pleaded guilty. Hodge, who was elected to the Texas House of Representatives, District 100, in 1996, and re-elected to the same position in 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, and 2008, has agreed to resign her office and never seek or hold future public office. Full Story
    San Francisco: Mountain View Woman Convicted of Wire Fraud and Witness Tampering

    Judy “Miu Wan” Yeung was convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, eight counts of wire fraud, and three counts of witness tampering. The jury found that Yeung engaged in a mortgage fraud conspiracy between approximately December 2004 and January 2007 that defrauded mortgage lenders and financial institutions of $6.5 million. Full Story
    Atlanta: Citizen of Mexico Sentenced for Role in Federal Sex Trafficking Conspiracy

    Miguel Rugerio, a Mexican national, was sentenced to federal prison on charges of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking and related immigration offenses, and of transporting one of the victims of the conspiracy, a young Mexican woman identified as “N.M.,” in interstate and foreign commerce for purposes of prostitution. Full Story
    Miami: Statement by Special Agent in Charge John V. Gillies Regarding Super Bowl Preparations

    Read about the FBI’s efforts in preparing for Super Bowl XLIV. While the Miami-Dade Police Department is leading the law enforcement effort, the FBI’s role is to protect and defend against terrorist threats. Full Story
    Los Angeles: Guilty Plea in Ponzi Scheme Based on Bogus Investments in Latex Gloves After 9/11 Attacks

    Miguel Salazar pleaded guilty to federal mail fraud charges for running a Ponzi scheme that took nearly $700,000 from victims who thought they were investing in latex gloves, which were portrayed as being in high demand following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Full Story
    Albany: Syracuse Man Charged with Stealing Trade Secrets

    Shalin Jhaveri was arrested and charged with stealing trade secrets and proprietary information from his employer, Bristol-Myers-Squibb. The complaint alleges that during his employment with Bristol-Myers-Squibb, Jhaveri stole numerous trade secrets as part of a plan to establish a pharmaceutical firm in his native India, which would compete with Bristol-Myers-Squibb in various markets around the world. Full Story
    New York: Aafia Siddiqui Found Guilty of Attempting to Murder U.S. Nationals in Afghanistan and Six Additional Charges

    Aafia Siddiqui was found guilty in Manhattan federal court on charges related to the attempted murder and assault of U.S. nationals and U.S. officers and employees in Afghanistan. Siddiqui was found guilty of all charges against her following a 14-day jury trial. Full Story
    Chicago: Business Owner Indicted for Minority Contract Fraud

    The owner of a Chicago company certified as a minority- and woman-owned business, her husband, and her company were indicted today on federal fraud charges for allegedly steering minority contracts through the company and collecting more than $9.5 million in fraudulent payments from three projects, including two at O’Hare International Airport. The company, Azteca Supply Co., allegedly fraudulently received $9,695,168, between 2001 and July 2008 while being hired as a sham contractor on runway and restroom projects at O’Hare for the City of Chicago, and on a landscaping project at a new Metra commuter rail station for the south suburban Village of Orland Park. Full Story
    El Paso: Federal Jury Convicts Former El Paso Criminal District Court Judge Manuel Barraza

    Former El Paso Criminal District Court Judge Manuel Joseph Barraza was found guilty of charges related to a bribery scheme. The jury convicted Barraza of two counts of wire fraud and the deprivation of honest services and one count of making false statements. The jury acquitted Barraza of one count of mail fraud. Full Story

  5. BugMaster said

    Ed accuses everyone else of using “Junk Science”.

    Check out this quote from his Sunday Post:

    “We learned why Bacillus bacteria incorporate silicon into their spore coats. It’s a result of evolution, giving the spores protection against the acids that would be found in an animal’s stomach. ”

    Ed, I would consider this quote as laughable if it wasn’t so pathetic! You are neither a microbiologist, or a biologist of any strip whatsoever. So I suppose trying to explain the absurdity of this claim would be lost on you.

    But then again, any explanation that does’t jib with your beliefs would be lost on you.

    That’s the problem with trying to have a rational, scientific discussion with a True Believer!

    • DXer said

      Bugmaster, what did you think of the new Japanese study on silicon and acid resistance?

      • BugMaster said

        It’s Crap!

        Their conclusion that silicon confers acid resistance to spores, and is the result of a specific mechanism that evolved over time violates the most basic concepts of inorganic chemistry and biology.

        Journal articles are supposed to be subject to peer reviews.

        Not real impressed with the “peers” in this case, whoever they may be.

      • DXer said

        The Silicon Layer Supports Acid Resistance of Bacillus cereus Spores
        Ryuichi Hirota,¶ Yumehiro Hata,¶ Takeshi Ikeda, Takenori Ishida, and Akio Kuroda*

        These organisms take up silicate from the environment and accumulate
        it as silica that is formed from highly concentrated silicate
        (27). In 1980, relatively high concentrations of Si were observed
        at the spore coat region of Bacillus cereus and Bacillus
        megaterium spores by an analysis using scanning transmission
        electron microscopy (STEM) (14, 23). However, due to the low
        resolution and relatively weak signal, the precise localization of
        Si was not determined. On the other hand, the Si contents of
        Bacillus coagulans and Bacillus subtilis spores were reported to
        be almost absent or under the detection limit (4, 24). Some
        bacteriologists familiar with these data consider the presence
        of Si an anomaly (17). The presence of Si in bacterial spores
        (specifically, the spores of Bacillus anthracis) again became the
        focus of attention when anthrax spores were mailed to U.S.
        senators in the fall of 2001 (17). The Senate anthrax spores
        could be easily dispersed as single spores when the container
        was opened. The investigators considered that coating spores
        with silica might be involved in preventing spores from sticking
        to each other (17). Thus, if silica is normally absent from
        spores, its presence in B. anthracis spores suggested that they
        had been weaponized (17). Subsequent analysis convinced the
        investigators that the Si was a natural occurrence (3). However,
        since silica-rich and -poor spores of the same bacterial strain
        have never been compared, any relationship between naturally
        accumulated silica and spore dispersion remained hypothetical.
        In the present study, we screened for the bacterium that
        takes up the largest amount of silicate from among a number
        of strains isolated from paddy field soil in order to study Si
        uptake, clarify the localization of Si, and reveal the roles of Si
        in bacteria. The effect of silica on spore dispersion was also



        Screening of bacteria that take up silicate. A total of 240
        bacterial colonies were obtained from paddy field soil and
        transferred to an mR2A medium (an R2A medium supplemented
        with trace amounts of CaCl2, MnCl2, ZnCl2, and
        FeSO4) in the presence or absence of 10 g/ml silicate. Of the
        240 isolates, 29 were capable of taking up more than 75% of
        the silicate from the medium after a 48-h incubation (data not
        shown). The 16S rRNA gene sequences of these 29 bacteria
        showed maximum homology to sequences of the genus Bacillus,
        and 21 of these 29 bacteria were homologous to the B.
        cereus group, a very homogenous cluster of six species: B.
        cereus, Bacillus thuringiensis, B. anthracis, Bacillus mycoides,
        Bacillus pseudomycoides, and Bacillus weihenstephanensis (26).
        The other eight bacterial isolates showed maximum homology
        to Bacillus shandongensis or Bacillus megaterium. The bacteria
        that take up silicate were all phylogenetically classified as belonging
        to the genus Bacillus. The strain that takes up the
        largest amount of silicate among the isolated strains was classified
        as B. cereus based on its 16S rRNA gene sequence (Fig.
        1) and designated B. cereus strain YH64.
        To analyze the silicate uptake along with the cell growth, the
        silicate concentration and cellular morphology of the YH64
        strain were monitored during incubation on the mR2A medium
        containing 100 g/ml silicate (Fig. 2A). After the latelogarithmic
        growth phase (20 to 40 h), the silicate concentration
        in the medium decreased drastically. The silicate
        concentration dropped to 0.05 g/ml after 40 h, followed by
        a slight increase, indicating that a portion of the incorporated
        silicate was released (Fig. 2A). After 48 h, almost all cells had
        formed matured spores just after the silicate concentration
        reached its minimum (Fig. 2B). On the R2A medium, which
        does not contain trace minerals, YH64 did not take up silicate
        (Fig. 2A) and showed impaired sporulation (approximately
        10% of the sporulation efficiency observed in the mR2A medium)
        (Fig. 2B), indicating that silicate uptake is related to
        spore formation.

        To determine the relationship between silicate uptake and
        spore formation, we measured silicate concentration and the
        number of heat-resistant spores and confirmed the timing of
        the appearance of refractile spores during sporulation in the
        mR2A medium containing 100 g/ml silicate from 12 to 36 h.
        Refractile spores appeared at around 16 h (data not shown).
        Heat-resistant spores appeared between 16 h and 18 h (Fig.
        2C). Silicate uptake started at around 22 h, and more than 90%
        of silicate was taken up by 36 h. Mother cells still remained at
        36 h (data not shown). These results indicated that silicate
        uptake occurs after the spores acquire heat resistance in their
        maturing process.

        Electron microscopic analysis of the spores. We prepared
        YH64 spores from the culture using mR2A with or without
        silicate and then analyzed them by SEM-EDX. The EDX signal
        of Si was not observed in the YH64 spores harvested from
        the culture without silicate; these spores contained almost no
        or a very small amount of silicate (Fig. 2D) and were denoted
        as low-Si spores. On the other hand, the Si signal was clearly
        observed in spores from the culture with silicate (Fig. 2D), and
        these spores were denoted as high-Si spores. We added silicate
        to the low-Si spores. The low-Si spores could not take up
        silicate (data not shown), indicating that silicate was first incorporated
        in the mother cell and then accumulated in the
        spore during maturation.

        Comparison of low- and high-Si spores. To investigate the
        role of Si in spore dispersion, we prepared spore powder by
        grinding freeze-dried spores in a mortar. Then, we placed
        10-mg samples of spore powder into clear 30-ml glass vials and
        shook them for a few seconds. However, unlike the Senate
        anthrax spores that floated freely (17), both low- and high-Si
        spores fell quickly to the bottom of the vials and stayed there
        (data not shown). This result indicated that Si accumulation
        alone did not make spores dispersible. The electrostatic charge
        of spores could make them repel one another and thus create
        self-dispersing spores (17). To test the electrostatic charges of
        spores, we shook the spores in a plastic bag and then applied
        them to an E-SPART analyzer (18). The average electrostatic
        charges of low- and high-Si spores were almost the same, and
        the individual spore charges showed similar distributions (data
        not shown). Furthermore, the zeta potentials of the low- and
        high-Si spores dispersed into water were not significantly different
        (data not shown). Therefore, the function of Si in bacterial
        spores had to be reconsidered.

        The Si layer supports acid resistance of the spores. Spores
        can survive under conditions unsuitable for growth and resist
        various kinds of stress. The spore coat is related to the impermeability
        to the spore’s inner membrane; thus, the spore coat
        is thought to confer resistance to toxic chemicals (19). We
        compared the sensitivity of YH64 low- and high-Si spores to
        wet heat, UV irradiation, 5.0% H2O2, 0.5 N NaOH, and 0.4 N
        HCl. Only under the acidic condition was the viability of the
        high-Si spores increased compared to that of the low-Si spores
        (Fig. 4A to E). The viability of high-Si spores treated with a
        different acid solution (0.1 N HNO3) was also higher than that
        of low-Si spores (Fig. 4F), indicating that the Si layer confers
        general acid resistance.


        The Si encapsulation, probably
        as silica (discussed below), which is resistant to most acids,
        may decrease the proton permeability of the spore coat and
        confer acid resistance to the spores. Interestingly, Si encapsulation
        of an inorganic pigment, ultramarine blue, enhances
        acid resistance and overcomes the limitations on the use of the
        pigment (10).

        As far as we know, diatoms, plants, and animals accumulate
        silicate as silica (13). Silica can be dissolved in HF (16). Accordingly,
        if the Si layer of spores contains silica, it could be
        removed from the high-Si spores with HF treatment. Approximately
        75% of Si that was accumulated in the spores was
        released as silicate after treatment with 50 mM HF (data not
        shown). We compared the acid resistance of HF-treated high
        Si- and low-Si spores (Fig. 7). After HF treatment, the viability
        of the high-Si spores was no longer higher than that of the
        low-Si spores. These results indicated that the Si layer mainly
        contains silica and supports acid resistance.
        Si is naturally available in soil and water. The silicate concentration
        in soil ranges from 0.1 to 0.6 mM (9.6 to 57.7 g/ml)
        (8). Therefore, the acid resistance conferred by Si encapsulation
        may occur in nature. Spores may encounter strong acids in
        environments such as the digestive conditions in animal stomachs
        (around 0.1 N HCl), indicating that a physiological function
        of Si in bacteria may be to aid survival under these conditions.
        When the anthrax powder sent to the U.S. Senate in
        2001 was found to be coated with unusual silica, it was discussed
        whether the silica was related to spore dispersion. We
        concluded that Si encapsulation is not sufficient to make spores
        dispersible but does contribute to survival under acidic conditions.
        Our findings also strongly indicate that the anthrax
        spores were harvested from culture on a silicate-containing

        • BugMaster said

          “Therefore, the acid resistance conferred by Si encapsulation
          may occur in nature. Spores may encounter strong acids in
          environments such as the digestive conditions in animal stomachs
          (around 0.1 N HCl), indicating that a physiological function
          of Si in bacteria may be to aid survival under these conditions.”

          The claim of a physiological function of SI in bacteria is what makes this article CRAP!

      • DXer said

        Here is thoughtful commentary on the Japanese article by a Professor of Molecular, Microbial and Structural Biology at the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington, CT. molecular biologist.

        Through the Looking Glass: Silicate in Bacterial Spores

        by Peter Setlow

        “Bioterrorism aside, this work raises several interesting questions. The first concerns the mechanism of silicate accumulation on spores. It appears to be mediated by the mother cell in which the spore matures, but how the mother cell does this is not known. Finding this out may lead to an understanding of why some Bacillus strains/species accumulate silicate and some do not. The second obvious question is why would a spore accumulate silicate at levels up to 6% of the spore’s dry weight. One possibility is that this might facilitate dispersion of single spores, much as does an outer coating of fumed silica. However, according to this paper, high levels of silicate on the spore coat did not enhance the dispersal of dry spores. Thus, silicate accumulation must play another role.

        Indeed, whereas the spores’ silicate plays no role in spore resistance to heat, hydrogen peroxide, UV radiation or NaOH, it significantly increases spore resistance to killing by 0.1-0.4 N mineral acids. This increased acid resistance might be particularly important in spores of pathogens such as B. cereus and B. anthracis that may pass through an acidic mammalian digestive tract. On the other hand, this would not be important in the alkaline digestive tract of the insect forms for which B. thuringiensis is pathogenic. Therefore, it seems likely that the spores’ silicate layer may serve an additional function. Since silicate accumulation in other organisms can impart structural rigidity, perhaps silicate plays such a role for spores as well. This leaves us with yet more interesting questions to address to these spores.”

        Peter Setlow is Professor of Molecular, Microbial and Structural Biology at the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington, CT.

    • BugMaster said


      The bioavailability of silicon in an animal host infected by a bacillus is zip!

      Just because the silicon may impart additional acid resistance to the spores DOESN’T MEAN ACCUMULATION OF SILICON IS A PHYSIOLOGICAL PROCESS AS THE RESULT OF EVOLUTION!

      How the hell can this be a benefit to a spore-forming bacteria (thus giving it selective advantage, required for the evolution of a new physiological process) when there is in almost all cases, in the environment the bacteria there VIRTUALLY NO DAMN SILICON AVAILABLE!

      Note that this means BIOAVAILABLE, as in SOLUBALIZED silicon. SAND DOESN’T COUNT.

      Add Peter Setlow to the list of individuals who are so myopic in their thinking that they come to ignorant conclusions!

      • BugMaster said

        “Some of this silicon remains in soluble forms”

        In a plant, yes!

        In a cow, NO!

        Not soluable!

        Not bioavailable, to any extent whatsoever!

        • BugMaster said

          Ed, let’s say for the sake of argument that there is a specific (and yet essentially undiscovered) physiological mechanism in which b. anthracis concentrates silicon in its coat to serve a specific purpose.

          Why, then, was no one able to duplicate the silicon signature?

          Best anyone could do missed by a factor of 10.

          And why do you suppose that almost 1 1/2 YEARS after Ivins committed suicide (and the FBI said they would close the case within days) the case STILL ISN’T CLOSED!

          Sounds like there is a bigger fly in the ointment than just privacy concerns or bad editing to me!

        • BugMaster said

          Thank God we’re in a period of relativly low sunspot activity! That could be a problem as well!

        • DXer said

          The snow just keeps coming and coming. :0)

      • BugMaster said

        ““Just because the silicon may impart additional acid resistance to the spores DOESN’T MEAN ACCUMULATION OF SILICON IS A PHYSIOLOGICAL PROCESS AS THE RESULT OF EVOLUTION!”

        Is it evolution which conflicts with your beliefs? If it isn’t the result of evolution, why is silicon utilized by so many living things?”

        I see you didn’t get the moral of the froggie story, Ed.

        • BugMaster said

          No, Ed, you didn’t.

          The moral is that while observation of effect (how far the frog jumped, how much silicon was in the spores) is easy, determining the cause is not as straightforward.

    • BugMaster said

      A short story, see if you can figure out the moral here.

      Amateur Ed was getting a bit fed-up with being told he was a layperson, and since he already was an Amateur Investigator, decided that he should become an Amateur Scientist as well.

      So he went out to Ed’s lake and caught a frog. Much to his delight, Ed found that he had a real knack for communicating with lower vertebrates, and was able to teach the frog to jump on command in no time at all.

      So, thought Ed, time for some science!

      Ed obtained a lab notebook and a tape measure. He placed his frog on a table and commanded it to jump.

      “ Jump, Froggie, Jump”, said Ed.

      The frog leaped forward. Ed took out his tape measure and recorded the distance in his notebook:

      Froggie with four feet jumps four feet. (note that scientist normally use the metric system, but let’s cut Amateur Ed some slack here!)

      Ed took out a box cutter, and whacked off one of the frog’s legs. He placed the frog on the table, and commanded it to jump.

      “Jump, Froggie, Jump”, said Ed.

      The frog once again leaped forward, although obviously, not as far. Ed took out his tape measure and recorded the distance in his notebook:

      Froggie with three feet jumps three feet.

      Ed whacked off another of the frog’s legs, placed it on the table, and commanded it to jump.

      “Jump, Froggie, Jump”, said Ed.

      The frog jumped. Ed again took a measurement, and added to his notebook:

      Froggie with two feet jumps two feet.

      Ed thought to himself (besides “I’m having frog legs for dinner”), “Hey, I really think I’m onto something here!”

      Out came the knife, and another leg left the frog. It was put back on the table, and again given the command:

      “Jump, Froggie, Jump”, said Ed.

      The obedient frog managed a pathetic flop, and once again, the results were quantified:

      Froggie with one foot jumps one foot.

      The last leg was removed, froggie was put back on the table, and given its order.

      “Jump, Froggie, Jump”, said Ed.

      No response from the frog.

      “Jump, Froggie, Jump”

      Still no response.

      “Jump, Froggie, Jump!”

      No dice.

      Intrepid Ed looked a bit puzzled, but only for a minute, because it was clear to him he had discovered something profound!

      Ed wrote in his notebook:

      Froggie with zero legs:


  6. anonymous scientist said

    Looks like NAS slipped in another meeting last week:

    This time they give absolutely zero information on who was presenting what.

    Meeting Information

    Project Title: Review of the Scientific Approaches used During the FBI’s Investigation of the 2001 Bacillus Anthracis Mailings

    PIN: BLSX-K-08-10-A

    Major Unit:
    Division on Earth and Life Studies

    Sub Unit:
    Board on Life Sciences
    Committee on Science, Technology, and Law

    Sharples, Fran

    Subject/Focus Area:

    Review of the Scientific Approaches used During the FBI’s Investigation of the 2001 Bacillus Anthracis Mailings
    February 1, 2010 – February 2, 2010
    Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center
    100 Academy Dr.
    Irvine, California

    If you would like to attend the sessions of this meeting that are open
    to the public or need more information please contact:

    Contact Name: Amanda Cline
    Phone: 202-334-3653
    Fax: 202-334-1289


    Closed Session Summary Posted After the Meeting

    The following committee members were present at the closed sessions of the meeting:

    The following topics were discussed in the closed sessions:

    The following materials (written documents) were made available to the committee in the closed sessions:

    Date of posting of Closed Session Summary:

    • anonymous scientist said

      Interestingly, the NAS meeting in Southern California was on the same day FBI Lab Director Hassell fired off his letter to the Wall Street Journal. I wonder what the talk around the water cooler was about?

    • DXer said

      It is customary that there is a lag time before a summary of the closed meeting is posted. It almost always has taken at least this long (and last time over a full week).

  7. anonymous scientist said

    Viewpoints: Mueller’s record makes him unfit for FBI

    SacBee — Opinion | 7 February 2010, 3:00 am

    Despite a pattern of abuses and failures under his watch, FBI Director Robert Mueller enters the 10th year of his tenure with the support of the White House.

    Not since J. Edgar Hoover has a bureau director enjoyed this enviable or mysterious a job security. And that should give Americans pause.

    Consider Mueller’s own admissions over the course of the last month.

    Faced with a preliminary report from the FBI inspector general, Mueller conceded that senior agents under his supervision illegally collected thousands of private telephone records over a four-year period in violation of federal and state criminal law, as well as the U.S. Constitution. Senior FBI agents directly under Mueller tried to cover up these violations by falsely claiming that the records were part of terrorism investigations.


    Nor has he been taken to task for his involvement in other recent failures:

    • The political corruption conviction of U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens was thrown out because prosecutors and FBI agents hid evidence that should have been turned over to the defense.

    • Murder charges against Blackwater guards for the slaughter of Iraqi civilians were thrown out because prosecutors and FBI agents violated the suspects’ Fifth Amendment rights.

    • While the anthrax mailing case remains unsolved, Mueller’s unjust treatment of an innocent man – Steven Hatfill – offers a chilling insight into the director’s stubborn refusal to acknowledge mistakes.

    After years of investigation, Mueller’s agents exonerated Hatfill. Yet the director refused to clear the man’s name and has never apologized for his role in one of the worst injustices committed in post-9/11 America.

    I served under Mueller when he was chief of the criminal division of the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. As a lowly trial attorney, I only spoke with him a few times. The lantern-jawed ex-Marine and Vietnam vet is undeniably charismatic, intelligent and impressive. His work in high-profile cases against John Gotti and others is admirable, as is his devotion to public service. If Mueller were the head of any other agency, failures under his watch might be forgiven. But the FBI is a special case.

    The nation’s oldest and most powerful domestic investigative agency has both a proud and sordid history. Its founding director abused the legal system to maintain control for decades. The public only now knows the extent to which Hoover broke the law in order to maintain his power, wiretapping those he deemed dangerous and ignoring wrongdoing when it suited his personal agenda.

    Members of Congress, some in the media and many U.S. presidents knew of Hoover’s crimes. But they did nothing. Perhaps they feared what the director had in his rumored private files. Perhaps they feared appearing soft on crime. Whatever the reason, Hoover’s job was secure even if the Constitution was not.

    In post-9/11 America, fear is commonplace. We often fail to grasp how it affects our judgments toward those in charge of protecting us. No director since Hoover has been guilty of more violations of civil rights than Mueller. No director has had to admit as many failures in handling information as Mueller. Blind support of Mueller from our political leaders and media constitutes more than a lack of oversight. It shows an ignorance of the FBI directorate’s own troubling history. For the good of the country and the integrity of the FBI, it’s time for Robert Mueller to go.

    Jonathan Shapiro teaches federal criminal law as an adjunct professor at the USC Gould School of Law.

    • DXer said

      How is someone at the head of such a large organization responsible for individual actions of a lowly trial attorney? It is reasonable to question his own judgments and actions — but although the “buck stops [t]here,” he can only control the things he can control. Now it was the lead AUSA in Amerithrax who was the one who was subject to the criticism of the federal district court judge in the Blackwater matter. But he is accountable for his actions in that case (and I don’t presume to judge the merits of that separate case). I don’t see how it is fair to criticism Director Mueller on that score. I’ve pointed to compartmentalization as the cause of the mistaken conclusions announced last August in Amerithrax. But after 911 the FBI was argued to be not well suited to handle a national security matter. That led to a national security division. Oftentimes, the FBI is damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Certainly, the argument on the point in the above post faulting him is very weak as it does not point to errors he made, it points to the errors made by the lowly trial attorneys. He stood up to Andrew Cardon warrantless NSA wiretapping. That’s a better measure of the man.

    • BugMaster said

      I am guessing here, but I suspect Mueller will be at the helm throughout the resolution of this matter to help restore his and the FBI’s reputation (as best as he can).

      It would not surprise me if he moves on soon after.

  8. DXer said

    There is a newly produced (witin the last day) June 25, 2001 email by Dr. Ivins saying he hoped the new production Ames spores could begin by the end of the summer. It is reasonable to infer that flask 1030, the flask with the silicon signature, was part of the Ames spore production that was the subject of the extensive email correspondence in the Summer of 2001.

    • DXer said

      Things are on track as of mid-July. He writes an email titled “Dugway” on July 17, 2001:

      “How are things going on your end with respect to the contract? According to our contract person, ____ (below) it* was sent and should be there. I’m looking forward to working with you again on these.

      [*He is saying the contract (which was sent with the money) was sent and received by Dugway.]

      • DXer said

        Note there is not a single email in the hundreds of emails produced to date evidencing instability — or even idiosyncracies. He demonstrated a consistent professionalism and cordiality in his email at work.

        Hypaque purification was the subject of discussion of emails released in the last day.

  9. Snapple said

    The Federal government does respond to defamatory junk science.

    One example would be this press release about the AIDS propaganda.

    • DXer said

      Hi Snapple! Welcome to the forum. We appreciate the participation.

      Now on the science of “junk science,” you rely on Ed Lake. Ed Lake was the only person in the country who didn’t understand that the genetics only limited things to 8 known isolates — limiting those with access from 1,000 to 100-300. He thought the genetics proved that Dr. Ivins provably took the anthrax out of the flask, processed it, and put it in the envelope. And then after 6 months he finally realized he was wrong (even though BugMaster and everyone patiently explained it, it did not change his assessment one bit, which is illogical).

      So if you want to talk about junk science, consider your source on scientific matters.

      He also argued for 7 years that silica was not used in the historic weaponization of anthrax because it would make it heavier.

      Now if you want to talk the science, Lew has uploaded all the powerpoints that Anonymous Scientist obtained from the NAS and gave to him. But there’s no need trade generalities.

      • DXer said

        Anonymous Scientist is relying on controlled experiments done by the aerosol experts Air Force lab who made — to address this issue – anthrax aerosol simulant with and without silanizing solution in the slurry.

        You, in contrast, are relying on a guy who thinks it is 99% certain that a First Grader wrote the letters. Yet he is not an expert and in 9 years he has done no controlled examination in which he is given samples of block writing written by adults and First Graders (to see in a blind test he can actually tell the difference). It is Ed’s analysis that relies on “junk science.” Even his sampling of the internet — which by the way on their face do not support his argument — was unscientific. He hasn’t even read the handwriting literature on the subject.

        If you have a rebuttal to Chris Stephenson’s point in the comment to the WSJ Op Ed I’d love to hear it. Also I’d like to hear a response on that point from Ed. Perhaps Sandia can provide a response. I think there are many competing hypotheses relating to silica that bear examination but there’s not yet been a response to the point made by “Chris Stephenson” or the testing done at the Air Force lab.

        • DXer said

          Mr. Epstein’s OpEd was seriously mistaken. He said research anthrax did not contain a silicon signature.
          Yet Bruce Ivins’ flask 1030 did.

          So while there are lots of possible origins of a Silicon Signature, to omit mention that flask 1030 had one (though in lesser magnitude) was a serious oversight. I had emailed him about in advance of the OpEd and so I was disappointed to see such a mistake.

          I personally think theAmerithrax investigation in the end will prove a great FBI and CIA success story because I think flask 1029 was the source of the anthrax attack. But Ed is still mistaken and anyone relying on Ed will also have been proven mistaken.

        • DXer said

          Anonymous Scientist disagrees with me.

          “Thus the FBI have no case that the attack spores were ever made at Detrick. If there is no silicon in any nutrients used at Detrick then there is no case.

          On the issue of flask 1030 – it was reported to the NAS that some spores (around 5% of the totoal spores present) in flask 1030 contained silicon – but the FBI do not say how much silicon per spore was present. If the concentration was as high as 1.45% no doubt the FBI would already have announced this – but this might open an even bigger can of worms – because it is highly likely that flask 1030 was made entirely not at Detrick but at Dugway – from several production runs. This would then suggest that the silicon emanates from Dugway – and that Dugway was more likely the source of the attack spores.

          The Op-Ed states that Bruce Ivins would have needed to make scores of flasks of anthrax to have enough to send in the letters. If anything, this is understatement. Enormous resources were required to make flask 1029 (the alleged original source of the attack spores). Flask 1029 required a total of brewing 164 liters of preparation to finally make 30g of spores, most of which were made at Dugway. At least 10g would have been needed for the attacks – an impossible task for one person at Detrick working secretly. The FBI’s case does not hold up to scientific scrutiny at many levels.”

          This is the scientific point that needs addressing. And as a lay person, I’m eager to see a qualified expert address it and prove Anonymous Scientist. So far it hasn’t been addressed and hopefully Ed will after consulting with a qualified expert.

          As I’ve indicated, I disagree with Anonymous Scientist and the author of the OpEd. I think to not mention flask 1030 is a serious oversight — and I think both AS and Ed E. fail to address the other alternative hypotheses for the origin of the Silicon Signature.

        • DXer said

          What would the level of Si be upon arrival of a shipment from Dugway under the contract between USAMRIID and Dugway — BEFORE the purification by Dr. Ivins.

          Would purification increase or decrease the “Silicon Signature.”

          When was the new Ames spores received from Dugway? When did Dr. Ivins purify it?

        • DXer said

          Anonymous Scientist, a PhD, used to use silica in coating inorganic materials for DARPA and so while he has no experience with making an anthrax aerosol simulant or working with anthrax, he is an expert on certain aspects of the question.

        • BugMaster said

          Who is Chris Stephenson?

        • DXer said

          That’s the name Anonymous Scientist used to conceal his identity. Hehe.

        • DXer said

          This is Dr. Michael’s response on this issue at the August 8, 2008 press conference: “No. The EDS cannot give you a quantitative number from a rough surface of particles. The EDS can tell you relative amounts of chemical species, but it cannot give you quantitative answers from a rough surface. If you gave me a perfectly polished surface of matal or an alloy or acermaic, I could tell your quantification with EDS. With a rough surface? No. That’s not possible.”

          Anonymous Scientist, in that study you have cited somewhere (I think from 2004 or so), what was the nature of the surface?

        • anonymous scientist said

          “No. The EDS cannot give you a quantitative number from a rough surface of particles. The EDS can tell you relative amounts of chemical species, but it cannot give you quantitative answers from a rough surface. If you gave me a perfectly polished surface of metal or an alloy or a ceramic, I could tell your quantification with EDS. With a rough surface? No. That’s not possible.”

          The above statement by Sandia’s Dr Joe Michael is not correct – and is a major strike against his credibility. At the same meeting he cited the Somlyo paper on silicon in bacillus cereus. But it seems he didn’t actually read the paper – since Somlyo reported the quantity of silicon present and he used EDS.

          Dr Michael somehow magically DID then obtain the concentration of silicon in the attack spores months later – using EDS. He reports it in his NAS Powerpoint but claims it has an error of +/- 50%.

          Again the quantity of silicon present in ALL the spore samples needs to be accurately known. It is unthinkable to believe the FBI do not know them (they claimed to Congess there was “insufficient sample” to obtain the concentration of silicon in the Daschle, NYP and Brokaw samples).

  10. anonymous scientist said

    To save Ed some time this week-end I have thoughtfully penned his Sunday comment in this handy cut-and-paste:

    February 7, 2010 – So, we’re at “the end of the first week of February” and the Amerithrax case has not yet been officially closed. While I haven’t heard anything at all from any of my anonymous sources, I have to assume that the official closing of the Amerithrax investigation, which I said was planned for “the end of January or at the very latest the end of the first week of February,” was delayed by the sudden scheduling of the Winter Olympics next week.

    The President wouldn’t want the impact of the Winter Olympics to be diluted or sidetracked by some unrelated announcement from the DOJ, a department in his Executive Branch of the government. After all, the Winter Olympics isn’t just a game. It’s a worldwide event, an announcement of togetherness, a call to action. It’s followed by meetings with members of congress, by discussions pundits on the weekend talk shows and by reviews and comments in the Sunday editions and in national magazines like Time and Newsweek, which go to press on the weekend for delivery on Monday. Closing the Amerithrax case in the middle of all that would be unthinkable. The idea is to get as many people as possible focused on helping to advance and improve the art of downhill ski-ing. Discussions of other matters don’t help.

    But I do know one thing. The slight delay to proving that Bruce Ivins acted alone in creating the engineered powder sent to Congress, and the 99% certainty that he coerced a young 6 year old boy from his wife’s day-care center into writing the envelopes, had NOTHING to do with the true believer junk science nonsense written by the conspiracy theorist Ed Epstein in the Wall Street Journal. After all, the FBI lab director responded to this on the official FBI website – and we all know that FBI lab directors always respond to junk science preposterous nonsense written by conspiracy theorists and true believers on the internet. If what was written by Epstein wasn’t junk science nonsense the FBI would have completely ignored the junk science nonsense posted by the conspiracy theorist Epstein.

    I’m keeping my ear to the ground, with my fingers crossed while I wait for something to happen – hopefully very soon. My anonymous source may email me any day now with a new date for closing the case which I suspect will contain a full confession from Dr Ivins that has been suppressed by the FBI for the last 2 years.

    • DXer said

      Washington has gotten more than a foot of snow only 13 times since 1870, according to the National Weather Service, which predicted up to 30 inches Saturday. The record was 28 inches, in January 1922. The biggest snowfall for the Washington-Baltimore area is believed to have been in 1772, before official records were kept, when as much as 3 feet fell, as recorded by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson in diaries.

      Of course, in recent times, the greatest amount of snow was August 8, 2008.

  11. Snapple said

    The FBI has posted Dr. Hassell’s letter as an official press release. They don’t sound scared to me.

    • anonymous scientist said

      “They don’t sound scared to me.”

      Who claimed they sounded scared? They just sound clueless. They have nothing to be scared about. They have no one to answer to.

  12. DXer said

    Anonymous Scientist,

    You say they are back at square one. I disagree. There is a “Go Directly To Jail” space on the board.

    Note that in context I think Fraser-Liggett was referring to genomics: “I never felt that science alone would solve this investigation.” Even the science was compartmentalized. She would have had no occasion to have a broader opinion. I thought her entire approach was refreshingly principled and intelligent. Dr. Keim too.

    The scope of the NAS review was entirely insufficient. First, they needed to address the Federal Eagle envelope which is even more probative than the genetics. It limits things from 50 states down to 2. The genetics limits things from 1000 individuals to 100-300. Now some might say it is not cutting-edge science, and does not need to be reviewed, but one could also say that about fingerprint analysis and consider the case of Attorney Mayfield. Or one could consider the example of the NAS report on lead bullet analysis.

    The scope of the NAS review was also woefully insufficient by reason of not addressing the subject of isotope analysis of the water and medium which at one point was thought to hold great promise. The scientists may have decided that the proposed Bayesian approach did not pass the necessary scientist standards. But that is something to be presented to the NAS. Otherwise, the NAS review is highly selective and thus inappropriate. The FBI says the isotope analysis turned out to be irrelevant. Fine — but that’s something for the scientists to explain to the panel members and then the NAS, if they agree, can concur.

  13. Anonymous Scientist said×7636645

    Lead scientist on FBI Ivins case: “I never felt that science alone would solve this investigation.”

    (OOPs! Remember this for the next time the BushCo Justice Department trots out the statement of Claire Fraser Liggett to re-apply lipstick to their pig. She is preeminent in her field, their ace in the hole and she’s saying, the science alone does not make the case.)

    Center for Health and Homeland Security Hosts Forum to Discuss Anthrax Case

    A plethora of questions still remains unanswered in the investigation of a U.S. Army scientist who the FBI believes was responsible for the anthrax attacks in late 2001. A forum held Sept. 10 at the University of Maryland School of Law shed light on the case from the perspectives of science and journalism.

    The event, “Did the Researcher Do It? The FBI’s Anthrax Case Against Dr. Ivins,” was the eighth annual Sept. 11 commemoration presented by the Center for Health and Homeland Security (CHHS). Scott Shane, a reporter from The New York Times, and Claire Fraser-Liggett, PhD, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (SOM) and the director of the Institute of Genome Sciences at the SOM, served as panelists. Michael Greenberger, JD, a professor at the School of Law and director of CHHS, gave opening remarks and moderated the forum.

    Shane, formerly a reporter for The Baltimore Sun, has followed and enterprised the anthrax story since 2001 when investigators first pointed the finger at a different suspect – Steven Hatfill – who has since been exonerated and awarded millions of dollars in damages from the government. And now, despite the FBI’s assertion that the late Bruce Ivins was the anthrax killer, Shane continues to try to uncover as many details as he can about the government’s would-be case.

    For a Sept. 7 article, Shane interviewed two dozen bioterrorism experts, investigators, and members of Congress who “expressed doubts about the conclusions.” A group of lawmakers have asked FBI Director Robert Mueller to address some of their concerns.


    What an interesting letter
    It starts by specifying “inaccuracies and omitted several relevant facts that are necessary for a balanced discussion of the science applied in the anthrax investigation” then it gives no specifics of any of these. It specifies and refutes nothing, though it takes quite a while doing that.

    This made me go look at the article they’re attacking which actually includes quite a few specifics. The part on the silicon appears to contain the newest info and could be what prompted the FBI non-response response.

    What these tests inadvertently demonstrated is that the anthrax spores could not have been accidently contaminated by the nutrients in the media. “If there is that much silicon, it had to have been added,” Jeffrey Adamovicz, who supervised Ivins’s work at Fort Detrick, wrote to me last month. He added that the silicon in the attack anthrax could have been added via a large fermentor—which Battelle and other labs use” but “we did not use a fermentor to grow anthrax at USAMRIID . . . We did not have the capability to add silicon compounds to anthrax spores.”

    If Ivins had neither the equipment or skills to weaponize anthrax with silicon, then some other party with access to the anthrax must have done it. Even before these startling results, Sen. Leahy had told Director Mueller, “I do not believe in any way, shape, or manner that is the only person involved in this attack on Congress.”

    When I asked a FBI spokesman this month about the Livermore findings, he said the FBI was not commenting on any specifics of the case, other than those discussed in the 2008 briefing (which was about a year before Livermore disclosed its results). He stated: “The Justice Department and the FBI continue working to conclude the investigation into the 2001 anthrax attacks. We anticipate closing the case in the near future.”

    So, even though the public may be under the impression that the anthrax case had been closed in 2008, the FBI investigation is still open—and, unless it can refute the Livermore findings on the silicon, it is back to square one.

    Of note is that the FBI itself commissioned the Livermore tests in an effort to prove their theory and Epstein is saying the tests “effectively blew the FBI’s theory out of the water.” Seems like that would be an easy fact to counter if inaccurate, yet nothing in the FBI letter specifically does so.

    Very interesting, indeed.


    Very unsettling
    Looks like that article got their attention.
    I still remember when they tried to float that bogus proof of mailing story. You caught them out well on that one. They still have no proof Ivins mailed anything. As you noted, it’s more than the science, it’s also investigation and evidence. The strongest evidence in that case is that they hounded a man to his death.

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